Woman's Reason for Reporting Male Students Praised: 'Pretty Privilege'

A female college student has reported a group of male students at her university to faculty staff after they suggested that she had been overscored in an exam simply because she is an "attractive" young woman.

The woman shared, in a now-viral Reddit post, that a few male members of her cohort had joked that she has, and benefits from, "pretty privilege."

Pretty privilege is the name attributed to the theory that stereotypically attractive people progress further in life are infinitely more likable, and as a result, have more doors opened for them. Akin to the halo effect, benefactors of pretty privilege can also expect to instill more positive impressions on the people they meet purely due to their good looks.

"I'm one of only a few female students in a male-dominated course," the 23-year-old Redditor wrote online.

"I am at a highly prestigious university and I haven't really gotten along with the guys on my course. They are all very competitive and they definitely take me less seriously because I'm a woman," she said.

Stock image of an attractive woman concentrating on some notes. The Reddit post has been commented on by over 5,300 users. Getty Images

The woman went on to share in the post that she had scored very highly in a recent set of exams and that her academic success was beginning to infuriate some of her male classmates.

The Reddit post says: "Ever since then, my interactions with a specific group of male classmates have gotten weird. They're now outright rude and challenge me aggressively in class. We recently had some presentations and one of them chose to do theirs on 'pretty privilege'. They specifically pointed to two papers that suggested that pretty female students get overscored in assessments. Other guys in the group snickered and one gave me a wink. Afterwards, I heard them in the hallway joking that 'they had experience with that themselves'."

After learning that the Redditor had begun dating a Ph.D. student at the same university, the group of male students intensified their alienation of her in class.

Their behavior continued to anger and upset the woman, who had shared online that she worked hard to attend this prestigious university and that she hadn't earned her place through her looks.

"I didn't confront them, but this has been causing me so much anxiety, even without the exam accusations, I worked hard to get here," she wrote.

Eventually, the woman plucked up the courage to raise the issue with her supervisor "without the intention of taking it any further".

The Redditor revealed that her female supervisor offered her some valuable advice and opened up about her experience as the only woman in a male-dominated professional environment. While the Redditor didn't want to escalate matters, her supervisor was keen for her situation to be taken seriously.

"She convinced me to let her email the boys' supervisors to remind them of proper conduct, and described their treatment of an unnamed female student," the woman wrote.

'Little Boys Playing At Being Men'

Since it was shared on the social media platform on March 14 by @Maleficent-Day4476, the Reddit post which can be seen here has been upvoted by 92 percent of the users who engaged with it and commented on over 5,300 times.

Most of the Redditors engaging with the post cheered the woman for standing up to her classmates.

"Any retaliation should also be reported. They're angling for some big problems if they keep this up," one user advised.

"Document everything. Call campus security on them," another added. "I'm so tired of little boys playing at being men and trying intimidation tactics."

A different Redditor wrote: "This is very true go back to your advisor if they retaliate in anyway! Keep standing strong you're awesome."

"I commend your courage in defending yourself. That takes tenacity," another user commented.

Is Pretty Privilege A Real Thing?

Akanksha Singh is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist who has written for the BBC and CNN; she's also a self-labeled "former ugly duckling" and vouches for the legitimacy of pretty privilege as a concept.

"It's the idea that pretty people skate through life at times, and that is real. There have been studies about how prettier people are perceived as more intelligent and have greater access to resources. I mean, look at the sheer presence of celebrities who lack talent or know-how and start successful lifestyle brands which sell," Singh told Newsweek.

"I also think we're largely open to the idea that it is also culturally imperialist. When I was growing up in the early 2000s, in the United Arab Emirates, and attending schools with mainly white people I was not the standard for 'pretty'. I was slightly chubby, and I'm a dark-haired Indian woman with brown skin. These standards have largely changed over the last decade or so, but they do still exist in their new incarnation," Singh added.

The journalist went on to tell Newsweek that she feels pretty privilege is entirely driven by "the patriarchy."

"While pretty privilege is real, in this instance, this is straight up misogyny. Constricting what constitutes as 'pretty' solidifies the status quo. Globally, most societies celebrate youth, and so pretty privilege for most women has an expiry date. Until we reach this date, we're expected to tread numerous lines. If we get pregnant, or we put on weight, or the moment we've birthed a human being, we're supposed to just bounce back," she explained.

"I think that's what makes pretty privilege so toxic. It pits women against each other, but none of this is on attractive women, they're just playing by the rules. Why wouldn't you want to play to your strengths and get ahead in a world which encourages scarcity as you go about climbing corporate ladders and breaking glass ceilings?"

Newsweek reached out to @Maleficent-Day4476 for comment via Reddit.

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